England coach Eddie Jones calls for ban on tackling above the hip in kids rugby
By ITV News Sports Producer Dan Salisbury-Jones
Primary school age children should be banned from making tackles above the hip in rugby, England's head coach has said.
Eddie Jones shared his idea for under 12s after being "saddened" by the news of 2003 World Cup winner Steve Thompson being diagnosed with dementia.
Thompson, 42, is one of eight former players who are taking legal action against rugby’s governing bodies.
A letter from their lawyers claiming negligence could be delivered as soon as Tuesday starting a process that could cost the game millions of pounds.
Jones believes the sport has made safety a priority but admits more could be done.
He told ITV News: "What I would do, and we discussed it on one of the World Cup committees I was on, what I’d do for under 12s would be to make the tackling underneath the hips, so encourage players to learn good technique at the most formative ages of tackling low."
Jones said: "Tackling low has its risks because you’ve got to get your head in the right position but the more we can encourage young players to be good at tackling low, it then becomes their stock tackle.
"Then we protect the ball carrier as much as we can, so that’s the first thing I’d do. We had a discussion about that, I don’t know where that’s gone."
Under 12s are allowed to tackle below the armpit according to the current RFU laws which is only slightly different to adult rugby where tackles are outlawed above the line of the shoulders.
Jones does not envisage drastic changes at senior level but believes the legal action will keep officials diligent in policing the zero tolerance rules on head collisions brought in by World Rugby in 2017.
"I think in terms of senior rugby, and we’ve moved towards this to a greater extent, is zero tolerance of any contact with the head. I think that’s been refereed well, I think we’ve got to keep down that track and not loosen that stance in that area," he said.
Jones' boss, the RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney, told the BBC on Friday that the use of language was important in making the game safer too.
The head coach prides his England team on being "brutal" but a change in messaging is something he would consider.
"Firstly, you know, I think we’re all saddened by the news and we feel for all the players and the families that’ve been affected by it. I know the medical staff in rugby have worked really hard to make the game safer so all we’ve got to do is try to make the game safer. In terms of the language that I use, if that’s a relevant point then I’ll listen to it."